The National Hockey League has announced that a new expansion team, a team from Las Vegas, will begin playing as the 31st team in the upcoming 2017-2018 season. This is a historical moment not only for the game of hockey, but the city of Las Vegas itself.
It all began in an outdoor game planned by the league on a warm September night in Las Vegas in 1991. It was the NHL’s 3rd outdoor game, which starred the New York Rangers and the Los Angeles Kings. The game and its setting captured the eyes of many. 13,000 people attended this game within the make-shift arena, which was played on top of Caesar’s Palace parking lot–a parking lot I kid you not–and were exposed to some of the greatest players to play the game. Hall of Famers such as the “Great One”, Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, and Doug Weight were on the ice entertaining they way you should in Vegas–with pure excitement.
The arena built on top of Caesar’s Palace parking lot for the 1991 outdoor game
Despite the mishaps that had occurred in the game such as the ice melting rapidly due to the heat of the Nevada desert and the unbearable weather for the players, it still left a positive mark for the people of Las Vegas.
Within the past 112 years of its existence, Las Vegas–the entertainment capital–surprisingly has not had a professional sports team to call their own. Sure they were hosts to pre-season games for the NHL and the NBA. They also did have minor-league hockey with the Las Vegas Wranglers, but nothing within the professional leagues. And in addition, they were the hosts of the NHL Awards show held at the end of every Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Las Vegas Wranglers playing at the Orleans Arena
Sidney Crosby at the 2014 NHL Awards show
However as of June 22,2016, the NHL officially approves the expansion of a Las Vegas team. After months and months of convincing the league by ticket drives (which sold out tickets), the building of the new T-Mobile Arena at the heart of the Vegas Strip, and mass support from the community; Vegas finally has their first professional sports team.
Team Owner, Bill Foley, and NHL Commissioner, Gary Bettman, on the announcement day
But none of this would not have been possible by billionaire, Bill Foley–the team owner. Foley and many other people of the Vegas community worked and petitioned for this to happen as they launched the Vegas Wants Hockey movement. This movement, as mentioned before, started ticket drives and community outreach to bring a team to Vegas.
The announcement of the Vegas Golden Knights on November 22, 2016
On November 22, 2016, five months after announcing the expansion, the new team’s identity and brand comes into fruition as they officially become the Vegas Golden Knights This historical celebration was held in front of their future home, T-Mobile Arena, which gathered many of the Las Vegas community and, marked the beginning of a bright future for hockey in the desert.
And that future also included the announcement UNLV’s men’s ice hockey team being approved to play Division 1 Hockey in the NCAA. Which was announced 7 days after the Golden Knights’ announcement. A bright future for hockey indeed…